October 15, 2018 brianradio2016

New York University professor and global economist Nouriel Roubini testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking last week, saying cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are the mother of all scams and bubbles.

He followed that assertion up by calling blockchain, the technology unpinning bitcoin, “the most over-hyped — and least useful — technology in human history.”

Today, Roubini doubled down on his claims in a column published on CNBC.com in which he said blockchain has promised to cure the world’s ills through decentralization but is “just a ruse to separate retail investors from their hard-earned real money.”

Blockchain, which can be used to create a decentralized, permissioned electronic ledger for all kinds of business transactions, “has not even improved upon the standard electronic spreadsheet, which was invented in 1979,” Roubini wrote in the  op-ed column.

“There is no institution under the sun – bank, corporation, non-governmental organization, or government agency – that would put its balance sheet or register of transactions, trades, and interactions with clients and suppliers on public decentralized peer-to-peer permissionless ledgers,” Roubini wrote. “There is no good reason why such proprietary and highly valuable information should be recorded publicly.”

Roubini is known for having been one of the few economists who predicted the 2008 financial crisis. Yet, after witnessing bitcoin’s fall in value over the past year, Roubini said it and other cryptocurrencies represent the mother of all market bubbles, enticing investors, “especially folks with zero financial literacy – individuals who could not tell the difference between stocks and bonds” – into a frenzy of bitcoin and crypto buying.

October 15, 2018 brianradio2016

LG is known for its wide-angle camera and is unique in using it on its smartphones. This year, it went camera crazy by rolling out the LG V40 ThinQ with five cameras. Three are on the back and two are on the front.

The three rear cameras include a 12MP standard lens, a 12MP telephoto one, and a 16MP wide-angle variant. A standard 8MP shooter with a 5MP wide-angle camera are found on the front. On the rear, one click can capture images through all three and give you multiple ways to view the content in your viewfinder.

The LG V40 continues what we saw in the LG G7 with a headphone jack, Quad DAC, Boombox speaker, IP68 dust and water resistance, and more. A 3,300 mAh battery seems a bit light for a 6.4 inch display, but we’ll have to see how it performs as reviews roll out.

Price: The LG V40 launches on 19 October and will be available from all major US carriers for a price ranging from $920 to $970.

October 15, 2018 brianradio2016

It sounds like new Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg is making some serious leadership changes. I think this is exactly what he needs to do. The reason is his desire for Verizon to be a leader once again in the coming 5G wireless revolution. If they want to be a leader, not a follower going forward, then they need to make some serious changes. Good goal. Next question, will he be successful?

Over the last decade, Verizon has been a mixed bag of successes and failures. Over that time, they have generally rewarded investors and had happy customers. They are the highest priced competitor, but their network is no better than AT&T. They used to be a leader in the wireless and telecom space, but that was a long time ago.

Today, they are a follower, not a leader. As we move to 5G, it will transform not only the wireless industry, but every other industry as well. That’s why it is very important for every 5G wireless player to have a high profile.

5G growth opportunity for AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint

That’s why Verizon needs to re-invent itself. Today their image is not seen as an industry leader. Why they fell behind has always been a mystery to me.

As an example, consider how 5G will impact the pay TV industry. It will be fast enough to carry a pay TV signal to the home and office. That means, new competitors in the pay TV space will come in and start to compete wirelessly.

5G will being so many changes to the way we use our smartphones, but it will also transform other industries. There is quite a bit of growth opportunity for the wireless networks like AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint.

October 15, 2018 brianradio2016

Why you should avoid: This thing is a total fossil!

Once the low-cost gateway device into the Mac ecosystem, and a really popular gift for the holidays, the Mac mini last saw refresh love from Apple in October 2014.

Nothing about the Mac mini makes sense any more. The form factor was based around the footprint of an optical drive, and the idea was that those switching up from a PC could keep their old peripherals and just slot the Mac mini into their workflow. Nowadays the focus is more on laptops, and the Mac mini feels like a relic of a bygone era.

But it’s a shame. I’ve owned a number of Mac minis and they were all awesome workhorses. It’s also a real shame that Apple has nothing to replace them with, especially since it was a popular choice for PC-to-Mac switchers.

Rumor has it that Apple might be readying a refresh. While I’d love to see a new Mac mini, I’m not holding my breath!

Hardware last updated: October 2014.

More Holiday Gift Guides

October 15, 2018 brianradio2016

Some readers recently challenged my assertion that Google needs to provide a real run-time version of Chrome OS that can be installed on hardware or in a VM.

More Google

Since May, Google apparently has provided, as a developer preview, form factor simulation of Chrome OS display devices in Android Studio — similarly to how the company has provided for different Android smartphone and tablet device form factors in the past.

Also: Chrome OS grows from underdog to attack dog

It has been pointed out that Google’s solution for developers is essentially no different than how Apple does things with iOS and the Mac — so why complain? However, I disagree with the premise that a simple display mode simulation is sufficient for Android application development and testing in Chrome OS.

But this debate got me thinking about how Google and its boosters consider the search giant to be occupying a privileged position in the mobile industry when, really, it is not. Google is displaying a very different type of arrogance than what Apple and its supporters have.

Google seems to be behaving like Apple

Apple is an established leader in the space, with 12 years on iOS with iPhone and eight years with iPad. iOS has massive app revenues and an extremely committed and loyal user base. Apple’s success entitles it to a certain degree of arrogance.

But this arrogance may one day prove to be the platform’s undoing: iOS is getting stale, and it had some recent qualitative issues to deal with in iOS 12. For now, Apple is fine, because it has hundreds of billions of dollars in its coffers, and continues to make huge loads of money as a hardware vendor, a mobile application reseller, and content services vendor. So the incentive to change isn’t there. For now.

Google, on the other hand, seems to be behaving lately like Apple even though it has not earned such bragging rights. Yes, Android itself is a very proliferous platform in terms of open source community buy-in and vendor adoption. Plus, it’s great for getting users on Google’s (predominantly free and ad-supported) services, but it doesn’t engender the loyalty iOS does and it is a fractured mess of apps using many different API levels.

Also: Google, Microsoft, Apple: Where does the money come from?

The third-party developer app revenue on Android is nowhere near iOS, because Android users just plain do not do in-app purchases the way iOS users do. So, that is problematic.

Android is a disaster as a tablet platform

Unlike Google itself, very few developers have adopted Material Design to create universal apps that function well on different Android form factors — as Microsoft has with its large stable of Android apps.

In fact, Microsoft has bought into the idea of Material Design so much that it built a similar design language for Windows 10 applications: Fluent Design.

But Microsoft is a bit of an enigma in the Android space when it comes to buying into modern app design.

The majority of Android phone apps on tablets are stale and look dated; on Chrome OS, which is a windowing desktop operating system, they look even staler.

Android lacks consistent polish in the UX, and the Play Store is not as heavily curated in the way Apple does by periodically forcing developers in the App Store to adapt to new APIs and OS releases or the apps get kicked out.

Most importantly, there’s still massive fragmentation in Android OEMs keeping their base operating systems updated and patched — the “Toxic Hellstew” my ZDNet colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is so famous for coining.

Despite these issues, as a smartphone platform, Android is doing very well. But as a tablet platform, Android has been a disaster if we compare it to iPad or even Surface. So, now, Google is going to try to leverage a bit of limited success with Chromebooks in educational verticals by attempting to make it into its tablet/convertible platform to compete with iPad and Surface/Surface-ish stuff.

Also: 10 apps that make Chromebooks feel like a real desktop TechRepublic

Featured stories

Google needs to rally the developer troops

News flash: Unless Google can rally the developer troops to clean out their crufty code from the Play Store and wholesale adopt Material Design, it will fail to make Pixel Slate and Chromebook a real tablet and desktop application platform.

It’s not unlike the “Better Android than Android” experience that Blackberry attempted and failed to do with its ill-fated QNX-based PlayBook (which I liked a lot) back in 2011, with Android apps running on it, in a half-baked way.

Or as a much earlier example, how IBM made Windows 3.1 apps run on OS/2 in the 1990s because it could not secure native application adoption on that platform. I liked that platform a lot, too.

On paper, it sounds like a good idea to leverage Android as a development environment for Chrome OS. But Google hasn’t done the needful in making the apps run well as tablet or windowed apps in a number of respects, not just the Material Design optimizations.

Every time this approach has been attempted instead of promoting native application development on a newer system it has been a disaster. This was first described as the “Second System Effect,” by author Fred Brooks in his work The Mythical Man-Month in 1975, in which he notes that small, elegant and successful systems tend to be succeeded by over-engineered and bloated systems due to inflated expectations and overconfidence.

Does all this sound familiar?

Indeed, it could be argued that Microsoft as well has not fully been able to pull this off either, and it has had its share of dealing with Second System effects, such as with Vista succeeding Windows XP.

I would argue that Microsoft has learned from that because Windows 7 was very successful. Windows 8 and 8.1 were absolutely Second System disasters, but a lot of the technology was later leveraged to become Windows 10, which is probably the best version of Windows ever released.

Still, Microsoft has had its ongoing challenges in kicking the can. With Windows 10 it has been experiencing a reverse Second System Effect, with new modern APIs and PWA stuff — that are arguably more elegant programmatic models — which are not anywhere near as successful as the legacy Win32 apps which have been running on Windows for decades now.

Developer uptake on those new Windows APIs hasn’t been as fast as the company wants. The failure of Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile is a very painful example of that. But that is a different problem.

Also: Microsoft needs to refocus on Windows 10 fundamentals, not just new features

The Osborne Effect

With more details of Fuchsia OS and the Zircon microkernel as future platforms for Google coming out of the woodwork at security conferences, and Google already promoting Flutter APIs as a future development target, it’s going to be difficult to motivate developers to fix their legacy Android apps to run well on Chrome OS, especially when they know they are going to have to re-code everything in the next two or three years, unless Google makes it very easy to make that transition.

There’s another phenomenon that describes the premature discussion of a successor platform: The Osborne Effect. And that’s exactly what all this Fuchsia and Flutter talk is going to precipitate if Google is not careful in the way it handles its developer ecosystem.

(How about Fluffernutter? Is that an appropriate new term for Google vaporware?)

What does Google need to do in order to make Chrome OS a successful developer platform and improve user adoption as a desktop and tablet operating system? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Previous and related coverage:

Why Google needs to put Chrome OS in developer hands

Google wants to disrupt with its stateless, cloud-focused desktop operating system. But it needs to become much more viral with exploitative apps if it expects it to succeed beyond just being a niche platform for education and light computing tasks.

The new Pixel Slate starts at $599 CNET

Google also announced the $199 Pixel Keyboard and $99 Pixelbook Pen.

Pixel Slate, plus everything Google just announced CNET

The company debuted its phones for 2018, a camera-free home control center and a new detachable Chrome OS tablet.

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October 15, 2018 brianradio2016

One of the biggest fundamental differences is that while the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are equipped with OLED displays, the iPhone XR is kitted out with a cheaper LED display.

But don’t let that make you think that you ware getting an inferior product. In fact, Apple claims that its 6.1-inch “Liquid Retina” display is the most colour accurate on offer in a smartphone, with wide colour support and True Tone for a more natural viewing experience.

The display sizes are also different. While the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max have 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch displays respectively, the iPhone XR is in the middle, sporting a 6.1-inch display.

Apple iPhone XS event

October 15, 2018 brianradio2016

The US hasn’t had an ambassador to Australia in place for two years, the longest stretch since WWII—which may explain why things are getting low-key chaotic Down Under at the American embassy. The BBC reports that an apology has been issued after a “training error” resulted in a rather…

October 15, 2018 brianradio2016

This month’s Windows 7 Monthly Rollup, KB 4462923, appears to be on the skids.

The KB article itself doesn’t mention anything. The patch is still available for manual download from the Microsoft Update Catalog.

But I’m seeing more and more reports like this one that KB 4462923 is no longer available from Windows Update.

It’s possible that Microsoft is actually going to fix the chicken-and-egg problem with the Servicing Stack Update KB 3177467 that I talked about last week. Or maybe not.

According to @abbodi86:

KB 4462923 is not completely pulled, they just moved it behind the scenes. They have done that before with multiple rollups that have issues. It won’t show up normally. You need WUMT or a VBS script to ignore the download-priory attribute. Of you can hide/clear all other updates in Windows Update. Probably they are waiting or trying to figure a way to fix Windows Update metadata and solve the Servicing Stack Update dependency issue

If you suddenly see KB 4462923 in Windows Update, please drop a line on the AskWoody Lounge.

October 15, 2018 brianradio2016

A vulnerability has been discovered in the Apple iOS VoiceOver feature which can be exploited by attackers to gain access to a victim’s photos.

More security news

As reported by Apple Insider, the bug, a lock screen bypass made possible via the VoiceOver screen reader, relies on an attacker having physical access to the target device.

Revealed by iOS hacker Jose Rodriguez and subsequently demonstrated in the YouTube video below, the attack chain begins with the attacker calling the victim’s phone. This can be made possible by asking the Siri voice assistant to read out the phone number digit by digit, should the attacker not possess this information.

Once a call has been made, the attacker must then tap on “Answer by SMS,” and then select the “personalize/custom” option.

CNET: Apple Watch Series 4: I hiked for 6 hours straight so you wouldn’t have to

Any words can be input at this stage as the phrases are irrelevant, but it is key for the attacker to ask Siri to turn on VoiceOver at this point. The camera icon must then be selected, and following this, the attacker must double-tap on the screen while invoking Siri through side buttons at the same time.

It might take a few tries to trigger the bug, but when successful, this will turn the target device’s screen black — which is potentially the result of OS confusion or conflict.

The attacker can then use this bug to access elements of the user interface, such as the image library, which should otherwise be restricted without knowing the victim’s passcode simply by swiping left.

Once access has been gained to the photo album, it is possible to double-tap photos to return to the call SMS reply box and add the content to the message. These images can then be stolen and sent to the attacker’s personal mobile device.

TechRepublic: Photos: Apple iPhone models through the years

While the actual graphics of each image are obscured by the message box at this point, they can still be accessed and viewed after they have been added to the message.

The publication confirmed that the vulnerability is present in current iPhone models running the latest version of the mobile operating system, iOS 12.

See also: iOS 12’s most annoying bug yet

In September, well-known Apple security expert Patrick Wardle revealed a zero-day vulnerability in Apple Mojave on the day of OS update’s release which, if exploited, could result in the theft of user contacts information.

The disclosure followed Wardle’s previous findings of a macOS bug which could lead to full system compromise.

ZDNet has reached out to Apple and will update if we hear back.

Previous and related coverage